I’m not one to idolise the Hollywood world, but Natalie Portman is an exception. At Harvard University, she co-authored two research articles as a student of psychology. As an artist, she won an Academy Award for her acting efforts, and recently wrote, directed and starred in a Hebrew-language film. She is also an animal rights activist and a mother. It’s inspiring to look at someone who has accomplished so much, but more so, I respect any celebrity who manages to maintain a degree of privacy for themselves and their family. I look up to Ms Portman as a feminist, and a testament to feminine strength, audacity, composure and excellence.
My idol is my dad. Losing his mother at the age of two and coming from a very low socioeconomic situation, Dad has had harder times than most. Playing in the Victorian Football League for teams such as Fitzroy and North Melbourne, he has skill and determination. Heading up a division of over 100 people at CBA he notably cared for their prospects. Yet, through all his adversity and accomplishments, he has remained humble, hilarious and loving. He sees the world with a level head, without gender binaries, and with respect for all people. The youngest of four – just as am I – he has shown me the littlest can roar. How lucky am I.
My icon is Leandra Medine. To me, Leandra Medine, the founder of Man Repeller, represents smart, forward thinking businesswomen, who in every respect have maintained their femininity under their own pretence. I first came across Medine in an article discussing why she didn’t wear makeup. It is not to make a statement, or to “act like the most extreme, hyper-literal and violent version of a man repeller”, but simply because she is too lazy, too busy, and most importantly, does not feel the need. She is comfortable in her own skin and capabilities. To me this is iconic, and is just one example of how she is a role model for young women who want to make their mark on the world, but are afraid of losing themselves in the process.
The Samsung scream emoji, as a visual representation of the world we live in, speaks more truth than any politician, activist or even artist would dare to. Let’s be clear, I’m talking about the one with the ghost coming out of their mouth (unique to the Samsung keyboards) here. Don’t bother me with that crass iOS shit. For me, this emoji is both a symbol of resistance to those who might oppress us, and an acknowledgement that sometimes these enemies will get the better of us. It is strength in weakness. In a world full of problematic faves, I am proud to call the Samsung scream emoji my least problematic.
Invite ten of the richest living musicians for dinner, and I’d shove aside my plate to share one pipe with Ludwig van Beethoven. In person, Beethoven was rude, unpredictable and strangely reserved. He was also a gifted composer robbed of his own hearing, a radical political idealist disillusioned by Napoleon, and a private romantic whose longings were constantly tortured by class differences. The famous “miracle” of the Ninth Symphony is that a deaf man composed it. I think the real miracle is that a character so downtrodden by the final years of his life would craft something so divine, beautiful and overflowing with love and promise for humankind. Beethoven will long outlive Napoleon, but I’m sure he knows that.
Excluding family, the icon which has had the greatest influence in my life would have to be David Pocock. He has utilised his status as an Australian sporting great to promote positive social change. He has redefined the boundaries within which sporting icons can promote change with their popularity.
My icon is Stanley the Sausage Dog.* The only thing I ever have on my mind, is why doesn’t Stanley have a show on cartoon network. In this imaginative world, Stanley would live and interact with a number of characters in the house – like the pet fish, the plants, other miscellaneous inanimate objects, but none of the humans in the house will ever acknowledge their sentience. So Stanley the Sausage would deal with all manner of moral dilemmas.
*Editor’s Note: follow Stanley on Instagram @stanley.thesausage
There are two people from history who are my icons. The first has no name, but was a 9th century Irish monk who copied Bibles in a beautiful hand. He demonstrated skill, dexterity and some knowledge of Latin. However, in the margins, he wrote in his native language of Ogham, ‘hung-over’. The second was Hegelochus, the original Orestes in a Euripides play. Before the time of social media he mispronounced his Attic Greek and said ‘weasel’ instead of ‘calm’. He never lived it down, comedic playwrights made fun of him years after. These two men are my icons, as they are remembered for being so very human.
I’m not very good at picking idols. Every so often, I fall in love with a public figure, only to shortly fall violently out. Humans seem to have an almost artful knack of completely fucking up the good impressions you have of them. I loved Anthony Kiedis until it became clear that his taste for girlfriends between the ages of 17 and 23 wasn’t limited to an acceptable period during his youth. I appreciated Lena Dunham’s work until it was impossible to overlook her perpetual ignorance of racial and class issues. David Bowie? Again with the underage girlfriend problems. Beyonce? For all her girls-running-the-world ideations, her Ivy Park garments are made by sweatshop workers who definitely aren’t feeling those vibes. It seems impossible to find a powerful figure who doesn’t have an equally powerful dark side. Which is why, these days, I lean away from pedestals. As Roxane Gay says, “People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly”, and the truth is that pretty much nobody does. Instead, I look for the values I’ve idolised in people in the past in my friends. I admire radical honesty in one close friend, wild creativity in another; the impressive getting-shit-done aura of several powerful women I know; the resilience and grace of my best friend since childhood; and the insight and wit of my partner. Rather than imagining that there are flawless people out there to idolise, I’m starting to feel like it’s more powerful to celebrate the qualities of ourselves and the other flawed people we know.
Photo credit: Nozomi Morgan